Not all celebrations are excessive. Some are just celebrations, even if it’s for a goal total that may seem excessive.
Yes, the scoreline was stark in the World Cup opener for both teams: 13-0, a record margin of victory for any World Cup, men’s or women’s.
The total is ugly, but the debate surrounding that scoreline has become even uglier.
Thankfully, that discourse at least seems to have moved past a discussion over whether the U.S. should have kept scoring at all. The strategic importance of accruing as many goals as possible, with goal differential the first tiebreaker in the group stage, has been well established.
Besides, as U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe said after the game, the alternative to continuing to attack isn’t much better.
“You don’t want to really take your foot off [the pedal] like that,” Rapinoe said, “you don’t want to pass the ball around in your own half for 30 minutes.”
But the way the U.S. reacted as the goals piled up has come under heavy scrutiny.
Perhaps no criticism was more widely shared than that of one current and two former Canadian national team players, who used words like “disgraceful” and “classless” to describe the USWNT’s on-field displays.
In further evidence as to how toxic this debate has become, one of those pundits, Kaylyn Kyle, said she has received death threats over her comments.
Before moving forward, as the USWNT surely has already, it’s worth considering exactly what the team was celebrating on Tuesday night.
First, as mentioned, goal differential is a factor in the group stage, meaning every goal the U.S. scored on Tuesday got them one step closer to their mission of topping Group F. Even though three points were assured early in the game, each goal did accomplish something in its own right. Sweden, the USWNT's primary competition for top spot in the group, could very well tally up a similar scoreline against Thailand.
More importantly though, this is a World Cup . Every player dreams of reaching this stage, and scoring at the highest level with the eyes of the world watching is the culmination of decades of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.
That is worthy of some celebration, whether it’s the first or 13th goal of the game.
About those reactions, though. From some of the commentary out there, one may think that it was all backflips, coordinated dance routines and conga lines. In reality, most of the USWNT’s celebrations were pretty routine.
Watch the replays again. On nearly every goal the player who scored does a routine arm-raise or fist-pump – and sometimes not even that much – before sinking into the typical group hug that envelops most goal-scorers.
Alex Morgan was criticized for her celebration where she counted off all her goals on her fingers. But it was hardly an ostentatious display and, let’s not forget, she scored five goals in a World Cup game.
Admittedly, Rapinoe’s wild histrionics after scoring the team’s ninth of the night did cross a line. If there was one unnecessary display on the evening it was the veteran who, playing in her third World Cup, probably could have dialled it back several notches.
If the outside commentary is getting to the USWNT players, you wouldn’t know it from what Sam Mewis – scorer of two goals on Tuesday – said on Thursday.
“I don’t really think we as a team are super involved in watching and reading a lot of media about ourselves, to be honest,” Mewis said.
“We had heard there were some things going on and I think we’re really trying to focus on the next game and on Chile. We respect Thailand a lot and I think that we’re just looking at the next game now.”
The USWNT appears to have already moved past Tuesday’s game. It’s probably time for the rest of the world to do the same.